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Persuasive Web Design, Part 13: Fostering Commitment Via Written Public Statements

Persuading customers to take action is one thing. Creating loyal fans — turning customers into committed advocates for our products — is something else.

How do we get lifetime customers? Customers who not only use our products, but feel passionate about them. Customers who can't imagine using your competitors' products... and love to tell their friends?

One age-old technique that is perfectly suited for the web is to solicit a written public statement.

The idea is very simple: get customers to endorse your product or cause publicly, preferably in writing. Once they've committed, it's very hard to go back, to act in a manner that's inconsistent with their statement.

This technique is very effective for soliciting donations, for example: First, you ask potential donors to sign a petition for your cause; then, you ask for the donation. People will be much more likely to donate if they've previously endorsed your cause. And this willingness to donate does not arise simply from some sense of obligation. They'll actually feel more passionate about your cause.

The Internet is the perfect vehicle for gathering public statements. Consider encouraging your customers to participate in:

  • Product reviews
  • Discussion forums
  • Blog comments
  • Video submissions
  • Facebook groups

Once customers have publicly endorsed your products, they'll feel more committed. More passionate about them.

We're living in the age of active engagement. Passive branding just isn't good enough any more. Encourage customers to express their opinions, and make it easy for them to do so. Once they've publicly endorsed your product, service or cause, they'll never go back.

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Comments (Comment Moderation is enabled. Your comment will not appear until approved.)
Good post, and I agree with the general points made, especially when applied to eCommerce.

However, could this not be used towards unethical ends? The example you use - "First, you ask potential donors to sign a petition for your cause; then, you ask for the donation." sounds like something of a trap. Whatever the cause (and I'm not arguing against petitioning or asking for donations in principle on their own) I think it would be akin to emotional blackmail, or at least something like it, to be all "you signed the petition so you must believe in the cause, but actually to show real support you need to give us your £$€". Having seen similar campaigns in the past, including a high profile political movement quite recently, it always makes me feel a bit uncomfortable when this approach is taken.

If the cause is good/inspiring enough those who would donate money will do so anyway. It should be more about getting that across.

P.S Your comment form saying is my twitter profile (www.twitter.com/podmatt) is not a valid url.
# Posted By Matt | 5/14/10 1:27 AM
Hi Matt,

Thanks for your thoughtful post. You raise an important issue.

Oh yes, it certainly could be used toward unethical ends. As could many of the techniques I've covered previously. (See #9, for example, which I **jokingly** subtitled, "How to steal a camera".)

Applying psychology to marketing is always going to appear manipulative. In fact, it's always going to BE manipulative. But that's the nature of marketing.

The donation example was simply an easy and clear way to explain how the technique works. (Just like the camera thing in post #9.) I don't advocate putting it into practice for sinister purposes.

When teaching my online persuasion course, I constantly refer to these techniques as "diabolical". Doing so reminds my students -- and myself -- of the potential dark side.

I personally believe "karma works" and never these techniques for unethical ends. Life's too short.

# Posted By Michael Straker | 5/14/10 4:25 AM